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Civil War Naval History
26 Following the secession of South Carolina (20 December) Major Robert Anderson, USA, removed his loyal garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, on an island in Charleston Harbor; this created special need for sea-borne reinforcements of troops and supplies.
27 U.S. Revenue Cutter Aiken was surrendered to South Carolina authorities.
All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac
This past Sunday my wife took the boys and me to Annapolis for a Father's Day outing. I've been to Maryland's state capital several times over the years, but am embarrassed to admit that I never had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Naval Academy. This time, I made sure to stop by the school for a look around. After consuming my fair share of crab at the Federal House Bar & Grill along the waterfront, we headed a short distance down the street to the Naval Academy.
Annapolis was a relatively young institution at the outbreak of the Civil War. President James Polk's Secretary of the Navy, George Bancroft, was instrumental in establishing the academy. In 1845 the new "Naval School" opened on the site of Ft. Severn, a 10-acre Army installation in Annapolis. Franklin Buchanan, who would later go on to become the Confederate commander at Mobile Bay, served as the first superintendent. The school was rechristened the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850.
|View of the Naval Academy published in the March 1853 edition of the New York Illustrated News (courtesy of Wikipedia). Old Ft. Severn is visible in the middle of the engraving.|
A few vestiges of the antebellum era at the academy remain, including the Mexican War Monument, the Herndon Monument, and the Tripoli Monument. A historical marker also indicates the spot where Ft. Severn was located.
|The Mexican War Monument was erected in 1848 to honor four midshipmen who died in the Mexican War (1846-48). Ironically, the four men never set foot in the Naval Academy.|
|The Herndon Monument, located near the Naval Academy Chapel, was erected in 1860 to honor Commodore William Lewis Herndon, who gave his own life saving others during a hurricane off Hatteras on September 12, 1857. In the end, Herndon went down with his ship, the mail steamer Central America. Today, the monument is the site of the "Herndon Climb," where first year plebes scale the lard-covered monument to retrieve a plebe's hat and replace it with an upperclassman's one. The side of the monument pictured above is marked with the date of the fateful hurricane.|
|The Tripoli Monument, located behind the Naval Academy Museum, was carved in 1806 and is the nation's oldest military monument. It is dedicated to six U.S. Navy officers who lost their lives during the First Barbary War (1801-05). The monument was originally located at the Navy Yard in Washington, moved to the west terrace of the Capitol in 1831, and finally relocated to Annapolis in 1860.|
|A few markers at Bancroft Hall commemorate Ft. Severn, which was constructed in 1808. (For more information on the text, see here and here.) During the War of 1812, the garrison prepared for a British attack that never materialized. The fort was later transferred from the War Department to the Navy Department in connection with the establishment of the Naval School.|
The 8th Massachusetts and 7th New York marched off their transports at the Naval Academy on April 22. From there, Butler set to work repairing the Annapolis & Elk Ridge Railroad, which connected to the Baltimore & Ohio at Annapolis Junction. The railroad had earlier been damaged by Southern sympathizers. Within a few days, the two regiments were on their way to Washington. A historical marker on the grounds of the Naval Academy commemorates Butler's actions.
|The marker at Annapolis dedicated to Benjamin Butler, located in front of Luce Hall along the Severn River. The date of the arrival of the 8th Massachusetts at Annapolis is given as April 21, 1861. Sources differ as to whether the regiment got to Annapolis on April 20 or 21. Butler's own memoirs, Butler's Book (1892), would seem to put the actual event as falling at some point during the night of April 20-21.|
Following a walk around the grounds looking at markers and monuments, my wife and kids relaxed under the shade of some ancient trees near the Chapel, and I headed to the Naval Academy Museum for a quick visit. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of interesting exhibits highlighting our nation's naval history from the Revolution through the present. The Civil War part of the museum contained many artifacts, including a piece of the USS Monitor and a wheel from Admiral David Farragut's USS Hartford. I also examined the models of ironclads and ships. I left having only touched the surface, so a return visit is definitely in order.
The Potomac Flotilla
In May of 1861, federal authorities created a "flying flotilla&rdquo to patrol the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. Dubbed the Potomac Flotilla, the fleet of six ships, steamers and barges was responsible for the safety of travel and supplies on the Potomac River and the upper Chesapeake Bay.
The Potomac Flotilla had its hands full keeping raiders and smugglers in check. When General Grant moved through Virginia during his 1864 Overland Campaign, the Flotilla removed Confederate mines from the Rappahannock River. This allowed the Union army to use Fredericksburg as a secure base for supplies. The Flotilla also extracted gunpowder from the mines for Union troops to use in the field.
The Potomac Flotilla provided invaluable security to the U.S. capital. By 1864, it helped drive the Confederate Navy almost completely out of the Bay.
In late 1775, the Continental Congress appointed a Marine Committee consisting of seven members, and gave it the mandate to organize a navy. Meeting each evening in a Philadelphia tavern, the committee struggled to agree on the most basic strategic and tactical questions. Facing alone the naval might of Britain, the strategic options open to its members was to: (1) defend the nation’s coastlines (2) protect convoys (3) prey on enemy commerce or (4) all of the above. The committee audaciously chose all of the above. In practice, the new navy was virtually powerless to do anything other than prey on enemy commerce. Constructing a fleet of 64 and 74 gun ships to face the main battle fleet of Great Britain was out of the question (see Table 1). It had limited financial resources, no administrators, few experienced officers and not least of all, the absence of fighting ships. However these issues did not dissuade the committee.
During the first three years of war, financier Robert Morris—who sometimes for expediency advanced his own funds, often without recompense—carried out most of the committee’s work. A small squadron of merchantmen were converted into warships and placed under the command of Eseks Hopkins, a merchant skipper with no naval experience. In December 1775, the committee authorized the construction of 13 light frigates rated between 24 to 32 guns each.
Building, arming, and fitting out the frigates was an enormous challenge for thirteen colonies that had no naval yards, no factories to produce ordnance (Britain had forbade the manufacture of heavy cannon in the colonies), or supplies like hemp and sailcloth. Even deciding which colonies were to receive contracts provided an early glimpse of pork barrel politics. Those frigates that managed to get to sea were often so poorly equipped that they were forced to return to port for repairs. But despite these defects, their design provided a valuable apprenticeship for a naval architect of future distinction, Joshua Humphrey. Several frigates such as the Confederacy (36) were notable designs, heavier than comparable enemy frigates and much admired by the British.
In a protracted conflict between vastly unequal forces, the Continental Navy inevitably succumbed: of the 13 frigates ordered, two were never completed, two were scuttled (when the British captured Philadelphia), one was set afire by its crew, one blew up in battle, and the remaining seven were captured and taken into the British navy. Despite its record, the Continental Navy produced several naval heroes, the most famous being John Paul Jones, and several promising young officers, including Thomas Truxtun and Edward Preble. At war’s end, only two major Continental warships remained, the frigate Alliance and the first American ship of the line, America (74). But ship losses were only one measure of the Continental Navy’s performance: fighting the Revolution forced Britain to commit major fleet assets to North America to battle the French navy, while its merchant marine suffered considerable losses and escalating insurance rates from the depredations caused by American privateers and navy ships.
Letter of Zebulon B. Vance to William Dickson, December 11, 1860
"The Whole Southern mind is inflamed to the highest pitch and the leaders in the disunion move are scorning every suggestion of compromise and rushing everything with ruinous and indecent haste that would seem to imply that they were absolute fools â€” Yet they are acting wisely for their ends â€” they are â€œprecipitatingâ€ the people into a revolution without giving them time to think â€” They fear lest the people shall thinkâ€¦ But the people must think, and when they do begin to think and hear the matter properly discussed they will consider long and soberly before they tear down this noble fabric and invite anarchy and confusion, carnage, civil war, and financial ruin with the breathless hurry of men flying from pestilence.â€¦ If we go out now we cant take the army and the navy with us, and Lincoln could as easily employ them to force us back as he could to prevent our going out.â€¦ We have everything to gain and nothing on earth to lose by delay, but by too hasty action we may take a fatal step that we never can retrace â€” may lose a heritage that we can never recover â€˜though we seek it earnestly and with tears.â€™
Undersea Mines in the Civil War
Note: During the Civil War, people referred to mines as torpedoes, after the torpedo fish (ray) that gives an electric shock. The self-propelled torpedoes we think of today were not invented until after the war. To avoid confusion, this exhibit uses the term mine.
The introduction of true mine warfare raised serious moral debate. For most of the war, the Union rejected mine warfare as a dishonorable, immoral practice. Because the Confederate Navy was desperate to protect their extensive waterways, the Confederate Secretary of War assented to their use in defensive capacities.
Gabriel Rains, a Confederate inventor of several mine primers and detonation mechanisms, felt mines had significant purpose in war as weapons and deterrents. He helped initiate their use by the Confederacy and lobbied for their acceptance by Confederate leadership.
As Confederate Secretary of War, George W. Randolph made the final decision regarding the adoption of mines by the Confederate States. Civilized warfare at the time permitted the use of lethal weapons only when doing so provided a clear military advantage. Randolph thus determined that while mines could not be used simply to kill enemies, they were acceptable in defensive contexts, such as protecting Confederate rivers and ports.
Although the Union Navy initially disdained the use of mines on moral grounds, their effectiveness eventually won out. As Union Admiral David Farragut wrote in a March 1864 letter to the Secretary of the Navy, “Torpedoes [mines] are not so agreeable when used by both sides therefore, I have reluctantly brought myself to it. I have always deemed it unworthy of a chivalrous nation, but it does not do to give your enemy such a decided superiority over you.”
Much of the Civil War was fought in the South, forcing the Confederates to protect thousands of miles of coastline with few resources. Mines offered the most effective tactic: they cost little to produce, worked well as defensive weapons, and could sink or damage large, costly Union ships.
Confederates planted mines in Southern rivers as early as July 1861 and continued to use mines defensively through the end of the war. Southern inventors also developed offensive mines, but these proved less successful because they had a lower chance of encountering targets.
The North implemented its now-famous Anaconda Plan early in the war. Similar to a snake strangling its prey, the Union hoped to force the South into surrendering by closing off its supply lines. Union ships blockaded Southern ports while Union forces attempted to take control of the Mississippi River, thereby cutting the south in two.
Keg mines (top) and frame mines (bottom) were the defensive mines most commonly used during the war. Confederates anchored them in their waterways to disable or slow Union ships attempting to capture Southern ports and cities. Moored to river bottoms, these mines detonated from contact pressure with an enemy vessel.
Mines also acted as psychological deterrents. Union sailors (and even officers) feared waterways known to be mined. Their anxiety sometimes affected troop movements and attacks.
The North saw little need for defensive or offensive mines. They rarely employed them and only sank one Confederate ship using mines during the war, ironclad CSS Albemarle in 1864.
Although the threat of undersea mines initially kept the Union Navy at bay, by early 1862 the South needed to take a more offensive approach to the blockade. The Confederacy developed small, semi-submersible boats called Davids that carried mines on long spars attached to their bows. The Davids could approach Union ships at night, unseen, and ram their spar explosives into the targets.
The Confederacy did not invent underwater mines or use them first. American inventors David Bushnell, Robert Fulton, and Samuel Colt had experimented with underwater mines leading up to the Civil War. Two Confederate individuals built on this work and significantly advanced mine design and technology.
Confederate Navy Commander Matthew Fontaine Maury evolved underwater mines that exploded from the shore by electricity. Army Brigadier General Gabriel J. Rains adapted land mines detonated by pressure into mechanical mines that worked underwater. Their innovations transformed mines from experimental devices to functional, effective weapons.
Gabriel Rains experimented first with land mines during the Second Seminole War (1835–1842). When the Confederacy nixed the use of land mines for moral reasons, Rains was transferred to “river defenses” to apply his inventions in waterways.
Matthew Fontaine Maury, known as the “Pathfinder of the Seas,” was a scientist and oceanographer before his work with electric mines during the Civil War. Historians believe Maury initiated Confederate use of underwater mines.
After Matthew Fontaine Maury was sent to Europe in June 1862 to procure critical naval supplies, including material to construct undersea mines, his assistant Lieutenant Hunter Davidson took over his duties.
Confederate Army Captain Francis Lee invented the spar torpedo (mine) in 1862. Mounted to a long spar (pole) attached to a small boat, the spar torpedo placed mines in an offensive role.
Much of the South’s success with mines came from standardizing their manufacture and distribution. In 1862, the Confederate Congress created two organizations that assumed authority over mine production and ended haphazard practices. Matthew Fontaine Maury and his protégé, Lieutenant Hunter Davidson, headed the Naval Submarine Battery Service while Gabriel Rains ran the Army Torpedo Bureau.
These professional services adopted standard procedures to methodically produce and plant underwater mines. They conducted research, recruited and trained mine specialists and technicians, standardized mine designs, and corrected flawed production methods. With the establishment of these systems, mine use grew in volume and effectiveness.
Confederates did not improvise the assembly or look of their mines. Although they sometimes utilized available materials like barrels or glass bottles, the design of Southern mines was planned and intentional.
Gabriel Rains meticulously refined and documented his mine designs, including this one for a “Vertical Wood Torpedo,” in an unpublished manuscript he titled “Torpedo Book.” His granddaughter presented the document to the Museum of the Confederacy in 1926 and it was published in 2011.
Both the Submarine Battery Service and the Torpedo Bureau established production stations in Richmond, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, and Mobile. The rustic appearance of this factory belies the sophisticated work performed at this site.
Underwater mines did not change the outcome of any major Civil War battle, but they played important defensive and deterrent roles. Mined waterways slowed the Union Navy by damaging its ships or forcing sailors to clear the mines before advancing. These delays gave Confederate forces time to retreat safely or await reinforcements.
Confederates increased the effectiveness of mines by improving existing mine technology and standardizing mine production and deployment. Over the course of the war, their mines sank 29 Union vessels and damaged 14. In terms of damage done compared to effort expended, Southern mining efforts proved remarkably successful. Nations throughout the world took notice and adopted mines for their navies.
Two Confederate mines blew up the gunboat USS Cairo on December 12, 1862. Cairo, the first Union ship sunk in the war by a mine, disappeared underwater in 12 minutes.
Union gunboat Commodore Barney sustained serious damage during a reconnaissance mission in August 1863 when an electric mine exploded beneath her starboard bow.
A David torpedo boat caused serious damage to Union ironclad New Ironsides in October 1863 when it rammed the Northern ship with a spar torpedo (mine). New Ironsides remained out of service for a full year undergoing repairs.
Confederate submarine Hunley made history on February 17, 1864, when she became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in combat. Armed with a spar torpedo (mine) attached her bow, Hunley attacked and sank Union sloop-of-war Housatonic in the Charleston Harbor.
The best-known vessel lost to a Confederate mine was the ironclad USS Tecumseh (center) at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. Admiral David Farragut’s reaction — “Damn the torpedoes [mines]! Captain, go ahead!” — became naval legend.
/>While trailing a Confederate transport vessel up the Blakely River in March 1865, Union ironclad Milwaukeefell prey to a mine despite actively sweeping for them.
Just four days after Milwaukee’s demise, the Union Navy lost another vessel to a mine in the Blakely River. Armored gunboat Rodolph, ironically sent to raise the Milwaukee, struck a mine that blasted a ten-foot hole in her bow.
Common Types of Civil War Mines
Most Confederate mines served defensive purposes and were physically anchored to riverbeds or shores to deter the advance of Union ships. This approach worked more effectively than the deployment of offensive mines placed in waterways to drift into targets.
Inventors designed two types of detonating mechanisms that ignited black powder inside the mines. A mechanical mechanism triggered autonomously, usually when physical contact with a ship activated a chemical or mechanical reaction that generated a spark. An electrical mechanism received electric current through a cable when an operator on land manually closed an electric circuit.
Defensive | Anchored | Mechanical Detonating Mechanism
Texans John Fretwell and E.C. Singer invented these lantern-shaped mines that were among the earliest and most successful mines used by the Confederacy. Fretwell Singer mines were anchored to the bottom of waterways. When a ship made contact with one, the heavy plate atop the mine fell off, pulling a pin that released a spring-loaded plunger. The plunger struck a percussion cap inside the mine to explode it.
Defensive | Anchored | Mechanical Detonating Mechanism
Gabriel Rains designed these widely-used mines by modifying beer kegs. He added contact points around the barrel’s middle, attached conical ends to streamline the shape, and filled the body with gunpowder. Confederates fastened keg mines to river bottoms. When a vessel touched any of the contact points on the mine’s midsection, the pressure triggered a chemical primer to detonate the mine.
Defensive | Anchored | Mechanical Detonating Mechanism
Frame mines consisted of iron artillery shells mounted to heavy wooden timbers. Each shell contained gunpowder and a chemical primer. Gabriel Rains carefully perfected the sensitive primer formula that made these mines so effective. Timbers with frame mines were placed in rows on river bottoms. When hit by a ship, the mine exploded because the contact pressure activated the primer, igniting the mine’s fuse.
Defensive | Anchored | Electrical Detonating Mechanism
Electric mines were detonated using electric current. An insulated wire connected an electric mine to batteries on shore. When an observer closed the circuit manually, electric current surged to the mine and exploded the gunpowder inside. The electric telegraph, invented before the Civil War, employed the same mechanism: batteries generated electrical signals that were transmitted along long wires.
Offensive | Drifting or Planted | Clock Detonating Mechanism
A horological mine was driven by a mechanical clock mechanism. The mechanism’s gears connected to a spring-loaded rod that released when a designated amount of time had passed. When sprung, the rod impelled its hammer into a percussion cap that exploded, setting off black powder contained within the mine’s body.
Spar Torpedo (Mine)
Offensive | Mounted to Submarine Bow | Mechanical Detonating Mechanism
Confederates lashed spar torpedoes (mines) to the bows of simple submarines. Carried into combat or sneak attacks, they were the most effective of the South’s offensive mines. The torpedo detonated when rammed into a ship by the submarine the pressure of impact triggered the torpedo’s contact points, which exploded the gunpowder inside. The spar (long pole) that the mine was fastened to kept the submarine safe from the blast.
/>Swaying Spar Mine
Defensive | Anchored | Mechanical Detonating Mechanism
Swaying spar mines were one of the most effective Confederate designs. Five contact points on the mine’s head contained percussion caps that detonated the mine upon pressure. The mine’s spar (also called a boom) hooked into an anchor, allowing the mine to sway with the current when in place. The shape and contact point placement of swaying spar mines made sweeping for or removing them difficult for the North.
Defensive or Offensive | Drifting | Mechanical Detonating Mechanism
The current mine gets its name from the water current that triggered its detonation. After drifting into its target, the mine was immobilized against the ship’s side, held in place by the ship and surrounding water. The current or tide turned the mine’s propeller, releasing a lever that propelled a hammer to strike a percussion cap. The resulting spark exploded the mine’s gunpowder.
Boston During the Civil War:
When the Battle of Fort Sumter occurred in April of 1861, Boston citizens, businessmen and politicians rallied together in support of the Union cause. Black citizens gathered at a Baptist church and pledge to fight for the Union if the ban on black soldiers was lifted.
Boston’s local banks loaned $3.5 million dollars to the state treasury and as well as another substantial sum to help mobilize Massachusetts troops. Railroad and steamship companies offered to transport troops and over 100 Boston businessmen organized a Massachusetts Soldier’s Fund to help support families of men recruited into the army.
Even the Boston Irish community finally got on board. Although they had previously denounced abolition and sympathized with the South, now that the Union was under attack, they felt a patriotic duty to protect their newly adopted country.
When a southern ship flying the Confederate’s “rattlesnake flag” pulled into Boston harbor on April 12, 1861, several hundred Boston citizens, most of them Irish, gathered at the docks and demanded the captain lower the flag and replace it with the Stars and Stripes. After the captain did so, the group then demanded custody of the flag and, upon receiving it, tore it to pieces.
On April 15, 1861 President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion and the secretary of War, Simon Cameron, asked Governor Andrew to send 1,500 troops to Washington. Massachusetts had a long history of militia training and, as a result, it was the first state to respond to the call to arms.
About 3,000 men immediately reported for active duty the following day. These men were later dubbed the “Minute Men of 61” because they responded so quickly to the call to arms.
Minute Men of 61, illustration published in the History and Complete Roster of the Massachusetts Regiments, circa 1910
These men were a part of three companies of the Massachusetts 8th Regiment that arrived in Boston on April 16 and marched to Faneuil Hall in the middle of a storm. There they were given gray overcoats and new rifles. The following day, the Massachusetts 6th Regiment also arrived in Boston and were also given new equipment.
Around noon that day, the two regiments marched on Beacon Street until they reached the steps of the State House and stood at attention while Governor Andrew presented their regimental colors to Colonel Edward F. Jones. Then the regiments marched off to war while onlookers cheered.
Around this time, Governor Andrew also began preparing the state’s coastal defenses. He examined the state of the harbor islands in Boston harbor and found they were greatly understaffed.
In response, Andrew sent the 4th Battalion of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia to defend and make repairs to Fort Independence on Castle Island. These troops were eventually joined by the 11th Infantry of the U.S. Army.
Fort Warren was determined to be ineffective as a defense against naval attack so officials instead decided to use it as a prison for Confederate POWs.
Many Irish immigrants in Boston also took part in the war effort and joined an all-Irish brigade: the 9th Massachusetts Regiment. After receiving training at the fort on Long Island in Boston Harbor, the regiment marched to the State House in Boston on June 25, 1861.
There, Governor Andrew awarded them their regimental flag and as well as an Irish flag of green silk and gave the following speech praising the regiment and its commander for their patriotism:
“Mr. Commander: I thank you, and through you, this splendid regiment, which you, sir, have the honor to command, and which the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is proud to register among the first six regiments of its volunteer contingent for the happy opportunity of a few moments’ interview, and for the parting congratulations between us on the eve of your departure for the seat of war.
The progress of the enlistment of your men and the appointment of the time of your departure, have been the subject of the deepest solicitude. I understand, sir, that, like yourself, a majority, if not nearly all of your command, derive their origin, either by birth or directly by descent, from another country than this.
As religion makes no distinction in the human family, so the United States of America knows no distinction between its native born citizens and those born in other countries. In one common tide flows the blood of a common humanity inherited by us all, and into our hearts, by the inspiration of the Almighty, has been breathed a common understanding.
To you and all your soldiers, from all the inhabitants of this land today begins an indebtedness which it will take long to discharge, and by future generations will you be remembered. Inspired, sir, by the purposes of patriotism, you, as adopted citizens, will know no other allegiance than that due to the United States of America, now the mother of us all.
I now put into your hands, as I have in the hands of regiments that preceded you, the State ensign of this Commonwealth. You already bear with you the Stars and Stripes, but I would have you recognized wherever you go as coming from this State, where you have your homes. When you look on the Stars and Stripes you can remember that you are American citizens when you look on this venerable ensign you can remember your wives and families in Massachusetts.
Take this as a pledge of affectionate care from the State of your kindred and homes, and of the sincere and undying interest which its people feel and will ever feel for you. In the utmost confidence in your patriotism and valor we send you forth as citizens of Massachusetts, assured that her honor will never be disgraced by the countrymen of Emmet and O’Connell.”
A few weeks after the regiment left for war, for the first time in history, city officials honored the Irish flag by raising it on the 4th of July on Boston Common, among the flags of all nations, and also ordered the Irish national anthem to be played.
At the end of 1861, another all-Irish unit was created: the 28th Massachusetts Regiment and it was officially mustered into service in December of 1861.
On January 1, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, church bells rang out in Boston throughout the day and a celebration was held at Boston’s Music Hall with attendees such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
When the proclamation was made official and was received via telegram, it was read out loud at the celebration and cheers and applause broke out in the hall.
On May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which was the first black regiment in the Civil War, arrived in Boston after completing its training at Camp Meigs and marched to the State House, with its commander Robert Gould Shaw, for the formal presentation of the regiment’s colors.
In attendance at the presentation were William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass, whose two sons were members of the regiment.
American Civil War Timeline 1861
The battle that started the war. The Federal fort in Charleston Harbour was bombarded into surrender by the Confederates.
3 June 1861: Battle of Philippi (Philippi Races), Virginia
The first land battle of the Civil War, which gained its name for the speed of the Confederate retreat. There were only 17 casualties on either side!
10 June 1861: Battle of Big Bethal, Virginia
Defeat of a Federal attack on the fort at Big Bethal in Virginia.
12 July 1861: Battle of Rich Mountain, Virginia
Federal victory in West Virginia.
13 July: Skirmish at Corrick's Ford:
Action during the pursuit of the army defeated at Rich Mountain, in which the Confederate commander General Garnett becomes the first civil war general to be killed in action.
21 July 1861: First Battle of Bull Run/ Manassas, Virginia
Confederate victory over a Union army invading Virginia. Bull Run ensured that the Confederacy would survive past its first few months but also increased determination to fight on in the North.
22 July 1861
General McClellan appointed to command the army of the Potomac.
10 August 1861: Battle of Wilson&rsquos Creek, Missouri
Battle in Missouri that saw the death of the key Federal commander in the area.
The first of a series of battles that saw the Confederates loose control of most of the North Carolina coastline.
10 September 1861: Battle of Carnifex Ferry, West Virginia
Confederate forces in the south of West Virginia defeated by General Rosecrans
10-15 September 1861: Battle of Cheat Mountain, Virginia
A Confederate defeat in West Virginia, notable as the first battle commanded by General Lee.
21 October 1861: Battle of Ball&rsquos Bluff, Virginia
Defeat of a Union attempt to capture Leesbury (Virginia), forty miles up-river from Washington.
7 November 1861: Battle of Belmont, Missouri
An early battle in the career of U.S. Grant. An attempt to create a diversion in the Mississippi campaign, most significant for the battlefield experience it gave Grant.
7 November 1861: Battle of Port Royal, South Carolina
Important Union naval victory against the land fortifications of Port Royal. The victory gave the Union control of the coastal islands of South Carolina.
HMS Warrior - Design and Construction:
Commissioned in August 1860, La Gloire became the world's first ocean-going ironclad warship. Sensing that their naval dominance was being threatened, the Royal Navy immediately commenced construction on a vessel superior to La Gloire. Conceived by Admiral Sir Baldwin Wake-Walker and designed by Isaac Watts, HMS Warrior was laid down at Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding on May 29, 1859. Incorporating a variety of new technology, Warrior was be a composite sail/steam armored frigate. Built with an iron hull, Warrior's steam engines turned a large propeller.
Central to the ship's design was its armored citadel. Built into the hull, the citadel contained Warrior's broadside guns and possessed 4.5" iron armor which was bolted onto 9" of teak. During construction, the design of the citadel was tested against the most modern guns of the day and none were able to penetrate its armor. For further protection, innovative watertight bulkheads were added to the vessel. Though Warrior was designed to carry fewer guns than many other ships in the fleet, it compensated by mounting heavier weapons.
These included 26 68-pdr guns and 10 110-pdr breech-loading Armstrong rifles. Warrior was launched at Blackwall on December 29, 1860. A particularly cold day, the ship froze to the ways and required six tugs to pull it into the water. Commissioned on August 1, 1861, Warrior cost the Admiralty £357,291. Joining the fleet, Warrior served primarily in home waters as the only dry dock large enough to take it was in Britain. Arguably the most powerful warship afloat when it was commissioned, Warrior quickly intimidated rival nations and launched the competition to build bigger and stronger iron/steel battleships.
Civil War Naval History December 1860 - History
November 6, 1860 - Abraham Lincoln, who had declared "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free. " is elected president, the first Republican, receiving 180 of 303 possible electoral votes and 40 percent of the popular vote.
December 20, 1860 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
Auction and Negro sales, Atlanta, Georgia.
February 9, 1861 - The Confederate States of America is formed with Jefferson Davis, a West Point graduate and former U.S. Army officer, as president.
March 4, 1861 - Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as 16 th President of the United States of America.
April 12, 1861 - At 4:30 a.m. Confederates under Gen. Pierre Beauregard open fire with 50 cannons upon Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War begins.
Fort Sumter after its capture, showing damage from the Rebel bombardment of over 3000 shells and now flying the Rebel "Stars and Bars" - April 14, 1861.
April 15, 1861 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation calling for 75,000 militiamen, and summoning a special session of Congress for July 4.
Robert E. Lee, son of a Revolutionary War hero, and a 25 year distinguished veteran of the United States Army and former Superintendent of West Point, is offered command of the Union Army. Lee declines.
April 17, 1861 - Virginia secedes from the Union, followed within five weeks by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy with a population of 9 million, including nearly 4 million slaves. The Union will soon have 21 states and a population of over 20 million.
Map of Allegiances of the States - 1861.
April 19, 1861 - President Lincoln issues a Proclamation of Blockade against Southern ports. For the duration of the war the blockade limits the ability of the rural South to stay well supplied in its war against the industrialized North.
April 20, 1861 - Robert E. Lee resigns his commission in the United States Army. "I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children." Lee then goes to Richmond, Virginia, is offered command of the military and naval forces of Virginia, and accepts.
July 4, 1861 - Lincoln, in a speech to Congress, states the war is. "a People's contest. a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men. " The Congress authorizes a call for 500,000 men.
July 21, 1861 - The Union Army under Gen. Irvin McDowell suffers a defeat at Bull Run 25 miles southwest of Washington. Confederate Gen. Thomas J. Jackson earns the nickname "Stonewall," as his brigade resists Union attacks. Union troops fall back to Washington. President Lincoln realizes the war will be long. "It's damned bad," he comments.
Ruins of the Stone Bridge over which Northern forces retreated until it was blown up by a Rebel shell adding to the panic of the retreat, with the Federals returning to Washington as "a rain-soaked mob."
July 27, 1861 - President Lincoln appoints George B. McClellan as Commander of the Department of the Potomac, replacing McDowell.
McClellan tells his wife , "I find myself in a new and strange position here: President, cabinet, Gen. Scott, and all deferring to me. By some strange operation of magic I seem to have become the power of the land."
September 11, 1861 - President Lincoln revokes Gen. John C. Frémont's unauthorized military proclamation of emancipation in Missouri. Later, the president relieves Gen. Frémont of his command and replaces him with Gen. David Hunter.
November 1, 1861 - President Lincoln appoints McClellan as general-in-chief of all Union forces after the resignation of the aged Winfield Scott . Lincoln tells McClellan, ". the supreme command of the Army will entail a vast labor upon you." McClellan responds, "I can do it all."
November 8, 1861 - The beginning of an international diplomatic crisis for President Lincoln as two Confederate officials sailing toward England are seized by the U.S. Navy. England, the leading world power, demands their release, threatening war. Lincoln eventually gives in and orders their release in December. "One war at a time," Lincoln remarks.
January 31, 1862 - President Lincoln issues General War Order No. 1 calling for all United States naval and land forces to begin a general advance by February 22, George Washington's birthday.
February 6, 1862 - Victory for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee, capturing Fort Henry, and ten days later Fort Donelson. Grant earns the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.
February 20, 1862 - President Lincoln is struck with grief as his beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, dies from fever, probably caused by polluted drinking water in the White House.
March 8/9, 1862 - The Confederate Ironclad 'Merrimac' sinks two wooden Union ships then battles the Union Ironclad 'Monitor' to a draw. Naval warfare is thus changed forever, making wooden ships obsolete. Engraving of the Battle
The Monitor at dock, showing damage from the battle.
In March - The Peninsular Campaign begins as McClellan's Army of the Potomac advances from Washington down the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay to the peninsular south of the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia then begins an advance toward Richmond.
President Lincoln temporarily relieves McClellan as general-in-chief and takes direct command of the Union Armies.
April 6/7, 1862 - Confederate surprise attack on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's unprepared troops at Shiloh on the Tennessee River results in a bitter struggle with 13,000 Union killed and wounded and 10,000 Confederates, more men than in all previous American wars combined. The president is then pressured to relieve Grant but resists. "I can't spare this man he fights," Lincoln says.
April 24, 1862 - 17 Union ships under the command of Flag Officer David Farragut move up the Mississippi River then take New Orleans, the South's greatest seaport. Later in the war, sailing through a Rebel mine field Farragut utters the famous phrase "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"
May 31, 1862 - The Battle of Seven Pines as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston 's Army attacks McClellan's troops in front of Richmond and nearly defeats them. But Johnston is badly wounded.
June 1, 1862 - Gen. Robert E. Lee assumes command, replacing the wounded Johnston. Lee then renames his force the Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan is not impressed, saying Lee is "likely to be timid and irresolute in action."
June 25-July 1 - The Seven Days Battles as Lee attacks McClellan near Richmond, resulting in very heavy losses for both armies. McClellan then begins a withdrawal back toward Washington.
Young Georgia Private Edwin Jennison, killed in the Seven Days Battles at Malvern Hill - the face of a lost generation.
July 11, 1862 - After four months as his own general-in-chief, President Lincoln hands over the task to Gen. Henry W. (Old Brains) Halleck .
Second Battle of Bull Run
August 29/30, 1862 - 75,000 Federals under Gen. John Pope are defeated by 55,000 Confederates under Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Gen. James Longstreet at the second battle of Bull Run in northern Virginia. Once again the Union Army retreats to Washington. The president then relieves Pope.
September 4-9, 1862 - Lee invades the North with 50,000 Confederates and heads for Harpers Ferry , located 50 miles northwest of Washington.
The Union Army, 90,000 strong, under the command of McClellan, pursues Lee.
September 17, 1862 - The bloodiest day in U.S. military history as Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Armies are stopped at Antietam in Maryland by McClellan and numerically superior Union forces. By nightfall 26,000 men are dead, wounded, or missing. Lee then withdraws to Virginia.
Confederate dead by the fence bordering Farmer Miller's 40 acre Cornfield at Antietam where the intense rifle and artillery fire cut every corn stalk to the ground "as closely as could have been done with a knife."
September 22, 1862 - Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves issued by President Lincoln.
President Lincoln visits Gen. George McClellan at Antietam, Maryland - October, 1862
November 7, 1862 - The president replaces McClellan with Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside as the new Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln had grown impatient with McClellan's slowness to follow up on the success at Antietam, even telling him, "If you don't want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while."
December 13, 1862 - Army of the Potomac under Gen. Burnside suffers a costly defeat at Fredericksburg in Virginia with a loss of 12,653 men after 14 frontal assaults on well entrenched Rebels on Marye's Heights. "We might as well have tried to take hell," a Union soldier remarks. Confederate losses are 5,309.
"It is well that war is so terrible - we should grow too fond of it," states Lee during the fighting.
January 1, 1863 - President Lincoln issues the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates and emphasizes the enlisting of black soldiers in the Union Army. The war to preserve the Union now becomes a revolutionary struggle for the abolition of slavery.
January 25, 1863 - The president appoints Gen. Joseph (Fighting Joe) Hooker as Commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Burnside.
January 29, 1863 - Gen. Grant is placed in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg.
March 3, 1863 - The U.S. Congress enacts a draft, affecting male citizens aged 20 to 45, but also exempts those who pay $300 or provide a substitute. "The blood of a poor man is as precious as that of the wealthy," poor Northerners complain.
May 1-4, 1863 - The Union Army under Gen. Hooker is decisively defeated by Lee's much smaller forces at the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia as a result of Lee's brilliant and daring tactics. Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson is mortally wounded by his own soldiers. Hooker retreats. Union losses are 17,000 killed, wounded and missing out of 130,000. The Confederates, 13, 000 out of 60,000.
"I just lost confidence in Joe Hooker," said Hooker later about his own lack of nerve during the battle.
Confederate soldiers at the Sunken Road, killed during the fighting around Chancellorsville.
May 10, 1863 - The South suffers a huge blow as Stonewall Jackson dies from his wounds, his last words, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees."
"I have lost my right arm," Lee laments.
June 3, 1863 - Gen. Lee with 75,000 Confederates launches his second invasion of the North, heading into Pennsylvania in a campaign that will soon lead to Gettysburg.
June 28, 1863 - President Lincoln appoints Gen. George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Hooker. Meade is the 5th man to command the Army in less than a year.
July 1-3, 1863 - The tide of war turns against the South as the Confederates are defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
Union soldiers on the Battlefield at Gettysburg.
July 4, 1863 - Vicksburg , the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, surrenders to Gen. Grant and the Army of the West after a six week siege. With the Union now in control of the Mississippi, the Confederacy is effectively split in two, cut off from its western allies.
July 13-16, 1863 - Anti-draft riots in New York City include arson and the murder of blacks by poor immigrant whites. At least 120 persons, including children, are killed and $2 million in damage caused, until Union soldiers returning from Gettysburg restore order.
July 18, 1863 - 'Negro troops' of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment under Col. Robert G. Shaw assault fortified Rebels at Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Col. Shaw and half of the 600 men in the regiment are killed.
August 10, 1863 - The president meets with abolitionist Frederick Douglass who pushes for full equality for Union 'Negro troops.'
August 21, 1863 - At Lawrence, Kansas, pro-Confederate William C. Quantrill and 450 pro-slavery followers raid the town and butcher 182 boys and men.
September 19/20, 1863 - A decisive Confederate victory by Gen. Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee at Chickamauga leaves Gen. William S. Rosecrans ' Union Army of the Cumberland trapped in Chattanooga, Tennessee under Confederate siege.
October 16, 1863 - The president appoints Gen. Grant to command all operations in the western theater.
November 19, 1863 - President Lincoln delivers a two minute Gettysburg Address at a ceremony dedicating the Battlefield as a National Cemetery.
Lincoln among the crowd at Gettysburg - Nov 19, 1863
November 23-25, 1863 - The Rebel siege of Chattanooga ends as Union forces under Grant defeat the siege army of Gen. Braxton Bragg. During the battle, one of the most dramatic moments of the war occurs. Yelling "Chickamauga! Chickamauga!" Union troops avenge their previous defeat at Chickamauga by storming up the face of Missionary Ridge without orders and sweep the Rebels from what had been though to be an impregnable position. "My God, come and see 'em run!" a Union soldier cries.
March 9, 1864 - President Lincoln appoints Gen. Grant to command all of the armies of the United States. Gen. William T. Sherman succeeds Grant as commander in the west.
May 4, 1864 - The beginning of a massive, coordinated campaign involving all the Union Armies. In Virginia, Grant with an Army of 120,000 begins advancing toward Richmond to engage Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, now numbering 64,000, beginning a war of attrition that will include major battles at the Wilderness (May 5-6), Spotsylvania (May 8-12), and Cold Harbor (June 1-3).
In the west, Sherman, with 100,000 men begins an advance toward Atlanta to engage Joseph E. Johnston's 60,000 strong Army of Tennessee.
A council of war with Gen. Grant leaning over the shoulder of Gen. Meade looking at a map, planning the Cold Harbor assault.
June 3, 1864 - A costly mistake by Grant results in 7,000 Union casualties in twenty minutes during an offensive against fortified Rebels at Cold Harbor in Virginia.
Many of the Union soldiers in the failed assault had predicted the outcome, including a dead soldier from Massachusetts whose last entry in his diary was, "June 3, 1864, Cold Harbor, Virginia. I was killed."
June 15, 1864 - Union forces miss an opportunity to capture Petersburg and cut off the Confederate rail lines. As a result, a nine month siege of Petersburg begins with Grant's forces surrounding Lee.
The 13-inch Union mortar "Dictator" mounted on a railroad flatcar at Petersburg. Its 200-pound shells had a range of over 2 miles.
July 20, 1864 - At Atlanta, Sherman's forces battle the Rebels now under the command of Gen. John B. Hood , who replaced Johnston.
August 29, 1864 - Democrats nominate George B. McClellan for president to run against Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln.
September 2, 1864 - Atlanta is captured by Sherman 's Army. "Atlanta is ours, and fairly won," Sherman telegraphs Lincoln. The victory greatly helps President Lincoln's bid for re-election.
October 19, 1864 - A decisive Union victory by Cavalry Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley over Jubal Early's troops.
November 8, 1864 - Abraham Lincoln is re-elected president, defeating Democrat George B. McClellan. Lincoln carries all but three states with 55 percent of the popular vote and 212 of 233 electoral votes. "I earnestly believe that the consequences of this day's work will be to the lasting advantage, if not the very salvation, of the country," Lincoln tells supporters.
November 15, 1864 - After destroying Atlanta's warehouses and railroad facilities, Sherman, with 62,000 men begins a March to the Sea. President Lincoln on advice from Grant approved the idea. "I can make Georgia howl!" Sherman boasts.
December 15/16, 1864 - Hood's Rebel Army of 23,000 is crushed at Nashville by 55,000 Federals including Negro troops under Gen. George H. Thomas . The Confederate Army of Tennessee ceases as an effective fighting force.
December 21, 1864 - Sherman reaches Savannah in Georgia leaving behind a 300 mile long path of destruction 60 miles wide all the way from Atlanta. Sherman then telegraphs Lincoln, offering him Savannah as a Christmas present.
January 31, 1865 - The U.S. Congress approves the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to abolish slavery. The amendment is then submitted to the states for ratification.
February 3, 1865 - A peace conference occurs as President Lincoln meets with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at Hampton Roads in Virginia, but the meeting ends in failure - the war will continue.
Only Lee's Army at Petersburg and Johnston's forces in North Carolina remain to fight for the South against Northern forces now numbering 280,000 men.
March 4, 1865 - Inauguration ceremonies for President Lincoln in Washington. "With malice toward none with charity for all. let us strive on to finish the work we are in. to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations," Lincoln says.
March 25, 1865 - The last offensive for Lee's Army of Northern Virginia begins with an attack on the center of Grant's forces at Petersburg. Four hours later the attack is broken.
At Petersburg, Virginia, well supplied Union soldiers shown before Grant's spring offensive.
April 2, 1865 - Grant's forces begin a general advance and break through Lee's lines at Petersburg. Confederate Gen. Ambrose P. Hill is killed. Lee evacuates Petersburg. The Confederate Capital, Richmond , is evacuated. Fires and looting break out. The next day, Union troops enter and raise the Stars and Stripes.
A Confederate boy, age 14, lies dead in the trenches of Fort Mahone at Petersburg.
April 4, 1865 - President Lincoln tours Richmond where he enters the Confederate White House . With "a serious, dreamy expression," he sits at the desk of Jefferson Davis for a few moments.
April 9, 1865 - Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders his Confederate Army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Grant allows Rebel officers to keep their sidearms and permits soldiers to keep horses and mules.
"After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources," Lee tells his troops.
General Lee surrendered in the parlor of this house.
Lee posed for this photo by Mathew Brady shortly after the surrender.
April 10, 1865 - Celebrations break out in Washington.
Final portrait of a war weary president - April 10, 1865
April 14, 1865 - The Stars and Stripes is ceremoniously raised over Fort Sumter. That night, Lincoln and his wife Mary see the play "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater. At 10:13 p.m., during the third act of the play, John Wilkes Booth shoots the president in the head. Doctors attend to the president in the theater then move him to a house across the street. He never regains consciousness.
April 15, 1865 - President Abraham Lincoln dies at 7:22 in the morning. Vice President Andrew Johnson assumes the presidency.
April 18, 1865 - Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrenders to Sherman near Durham in North Carolina.
Funeral Procession on Pennsylvania Ave. - April 19, 1865
April 26, 1865 - John Wilkes Booth is shot and killed in a tobacco barn in Virginia.
May 4, 1865 - Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, outside Springfield, Illinois.
In May - Remaining Confederate forces surrender. The Nation is reunited as the Civil War ends. Over 620,000 Americans died in the war, with disease killing twice as many as those lost in battle. 50,000 survivors return home as amputees.
A victory parade is held in Washington along Pennsylvania Ave. to help boost the Nation's morale - May 23/24, 1865.
December 6, 1865 - The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, is finally ratified. Slavery is abolished.
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